When Amanda first stepped foot inside a food pantry, her feelings of relief were stifled by a looming sense of defeat.
The relief was easy enough to understand. With her shopping cart full, Amanda no longer needed to worry about what her family would eat that week. The defeat, however, was more complicated. It spun from the chorus of voices in her head telling her that she shouldn’t need to get assistance, that asking for help was a sign of weakness and a submission to failure. She was never meant to be in this place, they said. But those voices never belonged to her.
Around eight or nine years ago, Amanda made a decision that moved her life in a new direction. She left her abusive partner, with whom she had two young girls, and set out to make a better life for herself. She juggled various jobs to make ends meet, but she didn’t always earn enough to pay the bills. Amanda swallowed her pride, visited Sister Carmen’s food pantry, and eventually found her way to Community Food Share. “Balancing making money and being with my children – childcare costs so much – I had to get creative,” Amanda recalled.
She was working at a preschool in February 2020 when Amanda fell ill with COVID. She ended up in the hospital, learning that she had an underlying health condition that exacerbated her experience with the virus. By the time she recovered, the world around her had shut down – and Amanda found herself newly unemployed.
Determined to make the best of the situation, she pursued an online graduate degree program. She secured a special scholarship that supports survivors of domestic violence and worked tirelessly to graduate in two years. After passing a board exam, her new degree and impressive credentials allowed her to secure her dream job.
With higher pay than she ever had before, Amanda was able to build her savings and purchased a Habitat for Humanity home in North Boulder. She stopped visiting food pantries or utilizing any other human services. “I thought to myself, I finally made it,” Amanda remembered with a chuckle. But life had other plans for her.
Amanda still felt sick more than a year after first catching the coronavirus and learning about her underlying conditions. She began working closely with her doctor, and together they discovered that COVID made permanent changes to her body and health. “I learned that my body couldn’t handle it all,” she shared. Her health continued to decline, and the small business she worked for couldn’t afford to give her the sick leave she needed. Eventually, she was let go. “I really felt I had done everything I could,” Amanda recalled. “But getting physically ill was something I couldn’t ignore. I worked myself into physically being unwell.”
Looking to make the most of every penny she had, Amanda decided to return to Community Food Share’s onsite pantry. Now she picks up groceries for herself and her daughters each week, visiting the grocery store only to supplement what she can’t find at the pantry.
“This time coming back, I thought, ‘I’m so thankful I have this help.’ It’s a different way of living, but it’s still helping me survive. I felt like I didn’t have to be ashamed,” Amanda shared. Now, she shares her experience with friends and family members whenever they face similar struggles, letting them know there’s no reason to be ashamed by asking for help.
This person’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.